There were fewer of us and it wasn't as ground-breaking, but this trip offered plenty of its own special moments. This time instead of a full log, I'll try to just summarize our activities.
The FanExpo Con took up a good part of the first three days again. Earlier we figured we would only go for the first two days and do something else on Sunday, but by Saturday we felt there was still more we could do there, and Gauntlet in particular had some unfinished business.
Gauntlet had a pretty clear mission at this Con. Many of the creators of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were there, and he had a lot of crazy stuff to have them sign. The wall of the Technodrome playset, floor of the sewer playset, children's books including a very ironic "Don't Do Drugs"-themed edition, and even a Cracked magazine satirizing the Turtles. Eastman and the others were apparently all too happy to sign this stuff. Also present was someone working on Green Lantern, and Gauntlet wanted to get his personally hand-sculpted lantern rings signed. This was not to be however, as this guy was nearly impossible to get a hold of. Every time G got there, the guy had just left or wasn't there yet. On the last day, he finally caught him leaving and at least got him to LOOK at the rings and express his awe, even if he couldn't get them signed at that point. Gauntlet was pretty proud of the Turtles stuff he got signed though - to the point he wouldn't shut up about it.
There wasn't nearly as much desperate searching around the Con floor for the others this time, since upon first entering, we planned to rendezvous by the Hellboy statue near the doors in one hour, and after a successful application of that plan, every hour since then. It was a great plan that made us feel much less lost and uncertain. Wonder how well it would work with more people? The only time it failed us was on the last day. I missed a rendezvous because I was lost outside in the rain looking for an RBC ATM so I wouldn't have to pay for the easily accessible ones inside the convention center, and Gauntlet was waiting in line to get stuff signed anyway, so at least I wasn't the only one.
This time I had this idea that I wouldn't be so cheap and I would actually buy the things that caught my eye there. Too bad not much caught my eye this time. Over the course of the three days I got a few comics, a few DVDs, and Megaman3 for NES, that's pretty much it. Just like last time, my feet were killing me fast, but there was less actual time at the Con so I survived.
I promised I would take a lot of photos this year, but I forgot my camera in my bag on the first day. I made sure to keep it on hand for day 2 onwards though. I got a brand new awesome camera so I can't blame my crappy photos on the crappiness of the hardware this time. Nope, that crappiness is all me.
No hotels this time, so when the Con was over the first day, Gauntlet drove us back to his own house. That's right, the mysterious inner sanctum of Gauntlet, in his mysterious suburb. We pulled into his mysterious garage, entered his mysterious porch, where there was a mysteriously large amount of shoes, met his mysterious immediate family, and set my bags beside the mysterious couch where I would be sleeping. Top and his boyfriend Keith had been there earlier and they were set up in a spare bedroom upstairs. I sorta had the whole ground floor to myself which kinda made up for the lack of door to the den that acted as my room.
We had to get our own groceries though. You may be surprised to learn that the family of Gauntlet, of all people, is not fond of moochers. I already had a bag of cereal from home so I just picked out milk, crackers, and called it a night. Top and Keith nearly filled a shopping cart with all the breakfast and junk food they wanted though.
We didn't see Needle until late the first night. Besides us, she had other cosplay friends that she only saw at this time of year, so we understood that she couldn't spend the whole time with us.
Last year we heard about the Masquerade event, saw the line, heard the description from Gauntlet, and decided to forego it. This time for some reason we went to see it despite the warnings. We understood that it would most likely be more trouble than it was worth, but we had to experience it for ourselves, kinda like a kid putting his hand on the hot stove. There was an insanely long line that wrapped around itself so much it looked more like a solid organized mass, and we were in the final fold (at least we didn't have to feel as claustrophobic as the people in the middle), turned out the first admissions would go to people with special blue tickets, which we didn't have but were being handed out earlier to anyone that was in the right place at the right time. We still managed to score three that were just laying on the ground or something. Top was left out and we schemed to tear one ticket in half so he could hold up one end and hope they wouldn't notice. We never went through with it, but it totally would have worked since when the doors finally opened, the whole "line" collapsed and people just flooded in holding up their blue tickets. Top was held back because he didn't have one. We saved him his seat though, albeit near the back. Our view was obstructed a lot by cameramen for the big screens off to the side of the stage that were little help to us from where we were anyway. Then it was a very long two-hour string of so-so Cosplay acts before the event we actually came to see came up third from the end - Needle and Dave as red Phoenix and Nightcrawler. We cheered hard for her. Their act wasn't the most elaborate, but the costumes were great, and considering what she had to work with at the last minute, it was incredible. By the end we could see clearly why Gauntlet felt one Masquerade was enough for an audience member. I believe he said something about previously telling Needle that he would never go watch one of those things again. It's mine and Top's fault that he was dragged in one last time. Ha ha. I think my crappy photos from the event should capture some of the experience for everyone.
We didn't find Needle coming out of the event, but by chance ran into her and her cosplay friends in the parking lot before heading home. We had no idea we were in the same parking lot and it was lucky that both cars even got into that lot so close to the convention center. When we got there there was only one spot left, and when Needle got there later there was somebody just leaving. I think that chance encounter was the most amount of luck we had all weekend, which may account for the bouts of bad luck we experienced otherwise.
There was one such shmozzle as soon as I got there. The others were to pick me up at the airport at 3:16, when my plane was supposed to land, though I wasn't off until 3:30. Add in another hour or so of constantly calling trying to find each other before realizing there was more than one terminal and I was in a different one, and we were off to a great start. We headed straight for downtown Toronto once we found G's car again, except for getting lost on the roads in-between. Gauntlet's driving was just as scary as ever, by the way.
While hanging out at Gauntlet's house, we mostly played our potluck of video games or Topman's insidious tabletop games. We did cooperative runs on MM8, MM7, MM2, MM3PC, and R&F(Japanese Super Famicom version). There was a big problem with MM8 on the PS2 Anniversary Collection. It seemed there was a distinct split-second delay on the controls that I don't remember on the PSX version or GameCube AC. It made it a lot harder, especially the boarding section at the beginning of the castle, but we defeated all of them eventually. We also played some rounds of Brawl(Top and Keith's specialty), XGRA(My specialty), Turtles in Time(Gauntlet's specialty), and Bust a Move(Needlegal's specialty) among others. We all got a chance to humiliate one another at a game only one person had any experience or expertise in.
The non-electronic games we spent the most time on were Hex Hex and Cutthroat Caverns. Hex Hex is a card game that involves passing witchcraft around like hot potato, and Cutthroat Caverns is a lot like an RPG card game where you have to cooperate with the other players to defeat monsters while simultaneously being encouraged to stab each other in the back as much as possible. They weren't the nicest games for a team to play with all the ways to screw each other over at every turn, but it was all in good fun. I was terrible at them though. At one point Top said he had never played a game of Cutthroat Caverns in which someone died, and then the next game we played, I died. Needle technically killed me by playing a card that forced me to take a critical hit from the monster for her. I was actually winning at that point too. Figures.
One of the last things we did before leaving was head for the Shoppers Drugmart to mail off the gifts we bought for the other Mechs at the Con. We only sent off Hard's and Mags' though since Top wanted to send Lennon's along with the stuff from last year which he left at home (and now he still needs money to afford the shipping. Lennon's never going to get his stuff), and for Classi we just didn't have her current address yet. We also made sure to write our commemorative epiloge while we were still there. We passed it back and forth a bit, though Gauntlet and Top did most of the writing, and they wrote up a storm.
One thing we did last year that we didn't get around to so much this time was drawing. That was disappointing to me. I brought quite a bit of art from home that I meant share but never got the chance, and the only time we actually got to doodle together was while eating at Jack Astor's where they give you crayons and a disposable paper tablecloth. We each did a bit of sketching on our own but it wasn't the same. It seems that having all those games to kill time with overrode the impulse to get out our sketchbooks. There was a point one night where Needle showed us a lot of the paintings and other art projects sitting around in the basement, which partly made up for the artistic void I was feeling. We also did a little shopping at the DeSerres art supplies store one day, which was an enlightening experience for me since I never knew there was such a place. I only got a new skecthbook and a small piece of sculpey while there, and now I have to look into any local versions of that store. The trip has left me feeling a little hungry artistically. I'll have to do what I can to satisfy that hunger now.
Overall it was a fun follow-up to last year's gathering, and we're all excited about making it an annual event. There was definitely something lacking without the other members though, so for next year we'll have to try hard for fuller attendance. Since the American members always seem to be the most immobile, we're going to see about bringing the party to them next time. I've about had my fill of Toronto by now anyway.
That's pretty much all I have to say for the trip. See you next year.